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May tea produce to suffer for dry spell

Siliguri, April 22: Tea production is likely to come down by about 70 per cent in May because of lack of rainfall in the region in the past one month that has resulted in dry bushes and pest attacks, planters said.

“The industry is experiencing an unprecedented crisis because of extremely adverse weather condition. The tea belt in the Terai is facing a very hot and dry spell as the region last received rainfall on March 20, more than a month ago,” said U.B. Das, secretary of the Terai Indian Planters’ Association. “The leaves have dried up. The situation is so bad that some estates have stopped plucking because of lack of green leaves. The condition of Dooars is same. We anticipate that production for May will take a beating and would be less by 70 per cent or so. If the present conditions continue for another week, the situation will be totally out of hand.”

Sources said in north Bengal, the annual tea production is around 300 million kg of which, 15 to 20 per cent is produced in April and May. Rainfall between March-end and mid-May helps the bushes.

“The second flush is considered premium tea and most of it is exported. But because of bad weather, the production has suffered. Similar is the situation in the small tea sector. Many bought-leaf factories have closed down because of shortage of leaves. Small growers are badly hit. On one side, there is lesser yield and on the other, because of the drought-like situation, pest attack has become a new concern,” said Bijoygopal Chakraborty, president of Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers’ Association.

“Looper and red slug infestation has been maximum. Irrigation costs are escalating and sources of water, including wells, have dried up in many gardens,” said a source.

An official of the India Meteorological Department said: “There is a probability of rainfall by the end of this week in some pockets of sub-Himalayan Bengal. So far, there has been no hint of torrential rain, required for the industry.”